Renamo and army in battles
Fighting between the army and Renamo in Homoine, Inhambane, and Gorongosa, Sofala, indicate an increase in military action on both sides as well as a further spread of Renamo guerrillas. Reports are confused and contradictory, but television crews, community radio, and mobile telephones mean there is much more reporting than during the war 20 years ago.
Fighting on 7th January has been confirmed at Pembe, Homoine district, Inhambane. On 8th January Mediafax reported six members of the Mozambican riot police (FIR) killed in the fighting, while STV reports two Renamo deaths.
Mediafax Monday reported that 70 and 100 Renamo men, some of them carrying AK-47 assault rifles, the previous week re-occupied what had been its main base in Inhambane during the 1981-92 war, at Nhamungue in Pembe, Homoine district, Inhambane. Renamo national spokesperson, Fernando Mazanga, confirmed at a press conference today that the men are from Renamo, AIM (Agência de Informação de Moçambique) reports.
This follows the report in O Pais (27 Dec) of the arrest on 23 December of 16 armed Renamo men moving south through the town of Morrumbene, Inhambane. As in Homoine, the armed men were said to be purchasing supplies from local traders, and not confronting local people. Homoine and Morrumbene are adjoining districts in the south of the province, which suggests that Renamo is trying to follow a pattern of 30 years ago when it sent fighters south from Gorongosa through sparsely populated areas of central Inhambane.
Homoine was the site of the worst massacre during the war. On 18 July 1987 a large Renamo force swept through the town, killing 424 people, including patients lying in hospital beds. Thus the return of Renamo created panic, and hundreds of people fled Pembe toward Homoine town. When a crew from the independent television station STV visited Pembe on Saturday 4 Jan they found it almost totally deserted.
Meanwhile, O Pais (6 & 8 Jan) reports heavy fighting in Gorongosa district, especially between Gorongosa town and Vunduzi, 35 km to the north and the nearest town to the former Renamo base of Santungira. O Pais says that the military has forced more than 3500 people in the area to move to three temporary refugee centres in Gorongosa town. Fighters and civilians have been killed but there are no confirmed numbers.
There were two Renamo attacks on traffic on the north-south N-1 highway on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day near Muxungue in an area where traffic now travels in convoy, under military escort. Five people were injured, none seriously enough to be hospitalised. Renamo has also dug a second trench in the road, which slows down the convoys. This was a very effective tactic used by Renamo during the 1981-92 war which meant no vehicles could drive from Maputo to Beira for more than a decade.
(Mozambique Political Process Bulletin , Joseph Hanlon)